First up, what is meta content, or meta data? In relation to SEO, meta data is the set of information, located in a website’s HTML code, that describes a web page.
Search engines, like Google, use this information to determine the theme of a page, and combined with other algorithmic signals, use it as a way of ‘deciding’ which pages are shown in search results for relating search terms.
This makes meta data an extremely important part of the SEO puzzle.
Where SEO is concerned, there are three main meta elements to consider:
As defined by the use of <h1>, <h2>, etc. the header elements are, as the name suggests, used to display headings on a web page. Typically an <h1> heading will precede all other page content, making it the first thing users read when arriving on a page. Search engine crawlers function similarly, and will attempt to first crawl the heading tags in order to understand what the page is about.
The html <title> tag of a page is the text that is shown in the bar at the top of your web browser. Not only does the title element describe the page, but it is also the link that is shown on external sites, including search engines.
Page titles should be limited to 65 characters, and for optimum benefit should be structured as follows: Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword | Brand Name.
Whilst it will not necessarily help to obtain rankings, the meta description is often shown as the text snippet on search engine results pages, so can help attract more clicks. It is therefore worthwhile spending some time creating compelling meta descriptions that summarise your pages, and ultimately encourage users to click through.
To avoid being truncated in search results, descriptions should be limited to around 160 characters.
The first, and most important part of this process is keyword research: without first conducting thorough keyword research, and identifying what your target audience is searching for in relation to your products or services, you’re basically firing in the dark. Put another way, there’s no point optimising pages for terms that no one is actually searching for. Additionally, you’ll want to consider how competitive keywords are before committing to them (tip: try using Google Keyword Planner for researching keywords)
Keyword research completed, you’ll now want to write your meta content for all key pages of your site. The most important things to consider here are:
The best way of managing a content plan is with a spreadsheet, which might look like something like this:
You should start by listing your pages in order of site layout, starting with the homepage at the top. This makes the spreadsheet easier to navigate and can save time when adding new pages in the future.
It is impossible to predict to what degree optimising meta data will affect search engine visibility, click-through-rates and site engagement. However, there are things you can look out for as general performance indicators:
As mentioned above, meta content is just one small part of a very complex SEO puzzle. It can certainly help, but without also optimising other areas, both on- and off-page, you’re unlikely to see any major changes for the good.
Above all else, your meta content, and all content on your site for that matter, should be written for the user, and not the search engines.